From the outset former champion Magdalena Rybarikova looked to be in charge, breaking Barbora Strycova in the first game, but after jumping out to a 3-1 lead, the Czech started to find her way into the match. She broke twice in a row but was pegged back with an immediate break back as the pair headed for a first set tie-break.
From there though, she ran away with it as it was a poor tie-break from the Czech whose frustration was evident, although she kept thigs competitive through the second set where she finally got the advantage to lead for 4-3 with a break.
However, Rybarikova broke straight back and from that point looked like the momentum was firmly back on her side, breaking again for a spot in her second Birmingham final.
She said, after the match: I knew it was going to be difficult because Barbora is such a huge fighter and returning quite well. I didn’t help too much with the serves. I knew it was going to be difficult and I have to focus on my serve, but I lost the serve. I knew again it was going to be difficult to close the set, as well for her.
“She was 5-4, 30-love and I played a couple of good points. Then the in tiebreak I think she did quite a few mistakes. That helped me a lot. When I won the first set, I was really believing I would win this match. Then again, she had a break up and I was still fighting and still believing I can win it and I won that one.”
She will face defending champion Petra Kvitova in the final – and much like with Strycova, she has a long-standing friendship with Kvitova.
She said: “Petra is really one of my best friends also on tour. She’s really amazing girl. We know each other so long. It’s going to be quite funny to play her. The funny thing is that we played against each other only in semi-finals or finals. So that’s pretty funny. I only managed to win one. So Petra, when she’s on fire, you can go shake her hand and say, Okay, I just want to leave from here. She plays absolutely amazing.
“For me, Petra is one of the best players when she is playing really on fire. So we will see how it’s going to be her day tomorrow. Hopefully she is not going to be on fire. But if she is, then for me it’s a great tournament. I will try my best. During practice we played here today. It was quite okay. But, you know, during the match, it’s going to be something totally different. Like I said, she’s a really great player and she’s the favourite of this match.”
Rybarikova has impressed with her agility, variety and touch on the grass, and despite an early exit at Nottingham, she has certainly found her feet here.
She said: “In Nottingham, I didn’t feel that well. I didn’t feel still my game on grass. I was playing little bit more clay court still. When I came here, the first practice was really good. It was much better. Maybe here it’s also bouncing a little bit lower than in Nottingham. I felt since the beginning good on grass. I mean, the first match, that was amazing match for me, to beat Karolina [Pliskova]. It gave me a lot of confidence. I beat her quite easy. So then I started to believe it could be a good tournament for me.”
The last time met at a tour level was in the New Haven final, where the Czech prevailed. Rybarikova will be hoping to change the script this time around.
The Nature Valley Classic final between Kvitova and Rybarikova is scheduled on the Ann Jones Centre Court, at 1:30pm.
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